Domestic Violence Groups Demand More Funding, Help for Victims

Updated: 03/13/2013 7:04 AM KSTP.com By: Stephen Tellier

People shared emotional stories as part of a push to get an additional $1.5 million a year to pay for domestic abuse programs. 

The Minnesota Coalition for Battered Women was one of a dozen groups meeting lawmakers on Tuesday. The Coalition said three domestic violence programs have closed in the past eight months in Minnesota. Others have reduced services. And it's all because of funding cuts.
 
Already this year... seven women in Minnesota have been killed in cases where their husband or boyfriend is the suspect. That's why many advocates say the larger issue isn't money. It's saving lives.
 
"You miss them and you wonder why," said Sheila Leete, whose daughter, Carolyn, was murdered in a domestic violence incident in St. Paul in March 2012.
 
Leete remembers her daughter's laughter, love, and sense of adventure.
 
"She was an artist and a nanny," Leete said.
 
She also remembers the brutal way she was taken away.
 
"She was beaten to death by her boyfriend," Leete said.
 
375 days later, as her daughter looked down on her, Leete looked down on a rally aimed at saving other women like Carolyn.
 
"The number of people in our communities who are living with domestic violence is huge," said Liz Richards, the Coalition's executive director.
 
Last year, more than 60,000 Minnesotans reached out for domestic violence services. The goal of Tuesday's event, Action Day To End Violence Against Women, is to make sure everyone has access to that help.
 
That takes money.
 
"We need a certain level of funding so that there is an individual in your community, in your county, who is there to respond in the middle of the night," Richards said.
 
But combined state and federal funding has been falling for years, and the cuts are getting larger every year. Total government funding for domestic violence services in Minnesota has dropped by about 7 percent in the past five years.
 
"When you get a funding cut, it's like, 'OK. How am I going to keep doing what we're doing?' Because you can't turn away women and children whose lives are in danger," said Connie Moore, executive director of Alexandra House, the only domestic violence facility in Anoka County.
 
Moore knows the consequences of cuts.
 
"The ultimate cost is lives," Moore said.
 
Leete doesn't know if her daughter's life could have been saved. But she said she knows more funding could save someone else.
 
"Money needs to be put into the programs," Leete said.
 
It's not just government funding that's been cut recently. Domestic violence groups also rely on charities and donations. Funding from those sources has dropped by 10 to 20 percent in the past two years.